BABE by Dorothy Chan
About the Collection
BABE is about owning the room. It’s about physical touch. It’s about dancing (actually, grinding) on a heart-shaped bed and starring as the leading lady of the film (no matter how risqué it gets). At the core of this collection, the Chinese American speaker questions the conventions around her, dating back to her origin story as a Hong Kongnese child who would get up to stretch in the middle of Cantonese class. As an adult, she questions her fate since the family fortune teller screwed her over with a lazy fortune, yet got her brother’s completely spot-on. She triple sonnets her way through confrontations of queerphobia in her family, the trauma from a past relationship with a significantly older man, and the constant male gaze. She pays homage to the first girls who ever loved her in this analysis of sexuality, queerness, popular culture, and resilience. She’s baby forever.
When formal genius meets the most startling lyric language and imagery, we find ourselves entangled with the ghosts of Sylvia and Emily—Dorothy Chan’s new collection of poems will freshen every day that you devote to them. This work is brilliant.
— Norman Dubie
Dorothy Chan’s BABE is often a prismatically bittersweet coming of age. One could get the impression that they’re being confronted or traversing a fortress reading through Chan’s triple sonnets, her other dense and perfectly compressed poems. It could be true. The nostalgia here, found in food, film, literature, visual art, and other culture, is two-fold—both beautiful and destructive—beautiful when Chan’s speaker projects herself, and destructive when her speaker is projected onto by other entities. In some ways, Chan’s book is a generous and heartfelt list of complaints in response to the latter that emerge from candid and intimate accounts of family, friendships, and romance. I say generous because in this mode, the poems are equally tender, hopeful, and fierce as they also look inward at someone who is later coming into their identity in order to become their best self. Ultimately, BABE is action packed, admirable, and in its own words, “a wonder.”
— Dustin Pearson
Dorothy Chan’s BABE makes me drool. Dripping with triple sonnets, I’m obsessed with this book and its radiating ferocity and tenderness. Reading this book, I kept nodding and nodding and saying YES!—feeling the lyrical power of each poem infused with resplendent queer love, transnational ache, matrilineal strength, and fierce resistance against queerphobia and the hypersexualization of Asian women. BABE takes up space and damn right it does: “I want to take up space, create my own city / that’s filled with bakeries of every color éclair / imaginable as I feed orange blossom macarons / to a lover in the tub.” These poems are sexy, honest, and voracious. Please read and celebrate this book over jello salad, fried chicken, spicy rice cakes, eggs, and poached pears in chocolate. Chan’s poems are decadent, real, and gutturally magnificent: “My lover licks the beauty / mark on my stomach—it’s the real thing.”
— Jane Wong
About the Author
Dorothy Chan (she/they) is the author of most recently, BABE, a book forthcoming with Diode Editions this Winter 2021, in addition to Revenge of the Asian Woman (Diode Editions, 2019), Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press, 2018), and Chinatown Sonnets (New Delta Review, 2017). They were a 2020 and 2014 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship finalist, a 2020 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Bisexual Poetry for Revenge of the Asian Woman, and a 2019 recipient of the Philip Freund Prize in Creative Writing from Cornell University. Their work has appeared in POETRY, The American Poetry Review, Academy of American Poets, and elsewhere. Chan is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Editor Emeritus of Hobart, Book Reviews Co-Editor of Pleiades, and Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of Honey Literary Inc., a 501(c)(3) literary arts organization. Visit their website at dorothypoetry.com
Chan received a PhD from Florida State University in 2019, an MFA from Arizona State University in 2015, and a BA from Cornell University in 2012.
- Diode Poetry Journal. “Triple Sonnet, Because I’m a Lucky Girl,” “Let’s Tear Each Other’s Clothes Off, I Tell Him Over the Phone,” “Five Sonnets for Red Lips: Goodbye, J.,” “A Poem About Killing Off Your Homophobic Characters,” and “Triple Sonnet About Ghosting Your Best Friend.”
- Foglifter Press, Home is Where You Queer Your Art. “Triple Sonnet, Because You Are Not My Home, You Are Not My Home, You Are Not My Family.”
- Vox Viola. “A Triple Sonnet About Queer x Straight Girl Friendships” and “Triple Sonnet for Being a Queer in a Family of Straights.”